Every autumn, it seems, a day comes when the weather changes abruptly. One day you’re standing outside a restaurant after a delightful dinner at about 10:30 p.m., perfectly comfortable wearing a sport coat and slacks with the temperature around 60 degrees, and the next morning you wake up to weather information on your phone that looks like this.
Don’t be fooled by the optimistic “possible light rain” statement on the weather app, either. When the weather change comes, and the season seems to shift in an eyeblink, the veteran Midwesterner ignores the rain forecast and scans the weather app for the dreaded snow icon. Let’s see . . . yes–there it is, lurking on and after 9 a.m. And because the snow is forecast to fall when the temperature is just under 40 degrees, it will be that kind of wet, sloppy, immediately melting snow that soaks everything–the kind of snow that slaps the innocents with brutal, cold reality and sends an unmistakable message that the delightful fall weather is officially over, When such a snow falls, you can only shake your head sadly and move the cold weather gear to the front of your closet.
It’s hard to complain, really, because this year we’ve had one of the nicest autumns you could possibly want, with warm temperatures and, especially, dry conditions. Now it’s time to recall those brilliant days with wistful pleasure as we slosh and slop and slip and slide into the pre-winter period.
I was treated to this beautiful autumn scene of fallen, and falling, leaves on my way to work this morning. Unfortunately, it was about 26 freaking degrees and a bone-chilling arctic gale was blowing, too.
This illustrates the hard reality of our modern “seasons.” There is no fall anymore, not the kind that we remember — when the sky was clear and bright and dry, the temperatures were in the 50s, leaves crunched underfoot, and sweaters were the apparel of choice. There’s no spring, either. Just hot summer and cold winter, with about a week separating them on each end.
I woke up this morning, prepared to take my morning walk, looked out at our patio, and noticed it is pitch black outside — when only a few weeks ago, at this same time of day, I was walking accompanied by the rising sun. Thus was I gobsmacked with the reality that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer.
We live each day so focused on the immediate demands of our lives that we often miss the gradual changes that are happening around us — until the physical cues provided by the world break through and make it clear. The relative snugness of clothing alerts us to weight gain or loss. Falling leaves tell us that September is only days away. And the ever-lengthening night reminds us that the seasons are changing whether we notice it or not.
I’m not ready for summer to end — it seems like it just got here! — but the darkness this morning tells me I’d better enjoy it while it lasts.
When the dogs and I stepped outside this morning, my breath was faintly visible and a distinct chill was in the air. When we got home I checked the weather app on my iPhone and saw that the temperature is supposed to reach the 50s and perhaps touch the low 60s today. I therefore declare this First Sweater Day.
It is not officially recognized, of course, but it is important nevertheless. It marks the first day that I can wear a sweater to work. It has to be on a Friday, when the casual dress rule prevails, and it can’t be declared too early, when wearing a sweater would leave me uncomfortably warm. It arrives in Columbus at a different date than it would in, say, Minneapolis or Portland, Maine, where First Sweater Day probably came weeks ago. But when the air outside has begun to acquire that gelid feel, and leaves are scattered on the sidewalks and roadways, and pumpkins appear on the porches of your neighbors, you know that First Sweater Day is here.
First Sweater Day is one of those real-life demarcations of the seasons, just like the start of school or the beginning of the fall TV season used to be. Donning a sweater today will help me to stave off wearing any kind of overcoat for a while, and from now on, as we move more deeply into the layering season, sweaters will be a staple of the wardrobe.
In New Albany, along Ogden Woods Boulevard, the leaves are starting to change. Even in today’s hot and muggy weather I couldn’t help but shudder involuntarily at this sign of winter’s inexorable approach.
Overnight the temperature plummeted, and it was in the 30s when Penny and I ventured out this morning for our walk. For the first time since early April, the barn coat and gloves were hauled out of the closet and donned against the brisk morning air.
Much as I love summer, I also love the changing seasons. As the temperatures slide from the Ss (60s/70s) to the Fs (40s/50s) to the Ts (20s/30s), the morning walk experience also changes in noticeable ways. Your breath comes out in visible puffs. Ghostly white clouds of water vapor billow from the storm water grates and hang in the sharp air. The light of the crescent moon shines on grass covered with a thin reflective layer of frost, and the Hunter, the Big Dipper, and their fellow stars seem brighter and clearer in the black sky. The layer of frost makes you walk with newfound care as you cross the slippery wooden plank walkway around the edge of the wispy steam-covered pond.
By the end of the walk your nose is cold, your cheeks are ruddy, and you are wide awake. The feelings are all very familiar, and very comforting. It’s grand to be alive on such a morning!